House Ethics Committee members sworn in, adopt rules
Six members of the seven-person House of Representatives Special Standing Committee on Official Conduct and Ethics that will look into an ethics complaint against Rep. Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan) were sworn in during the Committee’s first meeting Friday afternoon and adopted their rules.
Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota), who chairs the Ethics Committee, was sworn in, along with five other members: Reps. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), Joseph Lee Pan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan), Patrick H. San Nicolas (R-Tinian), Corina L. Magofna (D-Saipan), and Leila C. Staffler (D-Saipan).
Rep. Sheila J. Babauta (D-Saipan) was absent but excused. She will be sworn-in at a later time.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Grace “Pitu” Sablan Vaiagae, who is a counselor and an advocate for the rights of abused women, thanked the Ethics Committee for giving her the opportunity to stand before them.
“I am here today to stand in and thank you all for your courage, for your bravery and, most importantly, for uniting and coming together, and putting this Ethics Committee together for one sole purpose—of serving our people,” Vaiagae said.
It was Vaiagae who filed the ethics complaint against Propst last Nov. 9 over allegations that he had sex with several underaged women approximately 20 years ago when he was still a teacher at Marianas High School and an employee at the Northern Marianas College. Propst has denied the allegations.
She told the committee that it’s a historical moment for herself, along with countless victims, survivors, family and friends, that this is a moment that everybody has been waiting for since 2016 all the way to 2021.
Vaiagae commended the committee members and that she’s there to stand with them and thanked them for what they are about to do.
She said the committee members are setting a precedent and are showing the people of the CNMI that they are going to use their moral compass and set aside political parties and unite as committee members to bring justice.
“Be yourself. Be genuine. Be you. If you were put in the same situation, you know what you will do,” she said.
Vaiagae said that, as she stands before the committee, countless women, children, and families that do want to be there know that they can trust the 22nd Legislature to come together and address this, formulate a committee and to follow rules and conduct that may be adopted.
“Thank you for the bravery and the courage and for uniting as legislators,” she said.
The committee adopted their rules, including restriction of using mobile phones and recording devices during the meeting because they may be dealing with sensitive and confidential information, and that no information shall be disseminated and no comments shall be made to the media until a specific matter has been disposed or unless it is coming from Manglona.
Guerrero recommended appointing two alternates in case there is a recusal or conflict.
Manglona said when they need to appoint an alternate, they can request House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) for that.